, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 505-516,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Wild redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) use social information to learn new foraging techniques

Abstract

Recent research has claimed that traditions are not a unique feature of human culture, but that they can be found in animal societies as well. However, the origins of traditions in animals studied in the wild are still poorly understood. To contribute comparative data to begin filling this gap, we conducted a social diffusion experiment with four groups of wild redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons). We used a ‘two-option’ feeding box, where these Malagasy primates could either pull or push a door to get access to a fruit reward to study whether and how these two behavioural traits spread through the groups. During a pre-training phase, two groups were presented with boxes in which one technique was blocked, whereas two groups were presented with unblocked boxes. During a subsequent unconstrained phase, all four groups were confronted with unblocked boxes. Nearly half of the study animals were able to learn the new feeding skill and individuals who observed others needed fewer unsuccessful task manipulations until their first successful action. Animals in the two groups with pre-training also discovered the corresponding alternative technique but preferred the seeded technique. Interestingly, animals in the two groups without pre-training discovered both techniques, and one group developed a group preference for one technique whereas the other did not. In all groups, some animals also scrounged food rewards. In conclusion, redfronted lemurs appear to use social information in acquiring a novel task, and animals in at least in one group without training developed a group preference for one technique, indicating that they have the potential to develop behavioural traditions and conformity.